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Photographs by Erica Deeman

Wendy MacNaughton’s Notes to Self [private]

There is a bootmaker, a man who plies his trade in a roadside shack on the way to Spring City, Utah. You can find him by a hand-painted sign. He isn’t expecting any walk-ins, really, but if you knock and he doesn’t answer, and you have the inclination to walk in anyway, you’ll likely find him at his bench stitching a sole.


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A page of Jacob’s travel diary during a trip to India, 1996. Photo by Sarah Blesener.

Mira Jacob’s Notes to Self

It began, as so many cultural inquiries do, with some confusion about Michael Jackson. The summer of 2014, Mira Jacob’s son (we’ll call him Z) was obsessed with the singer, which is to be expected of a six-year-old who knows what’s what. But any path into Jackson’s story, especially for a child of color (Jacob is Indian American; her husband is Jewish) invariably ends up in the territory of disconnect, the before and after of his complexion, making the pop star’s story, like the larger American one, a bit difficult to explain. What began with an obsessive imitation of the backstep from “Beat It” led to heavy rotation on the family turntable, with albums strewn across the room. “And then it was obvious,” Jacob recalls, “because Michael’s face is so big on those albums. You can see his skin get lighter. So of course Z begins to ask: Who is this person? How did this thing happen? Will it happen to us?”

'War Is Beautiful.' By David Shields. powerHouse, 2015. 112p. HB,  $39.95.

Picturing Books

January 29, 2016

“Picture books,” children call them—but they’re not just for children anymore. 

Little Nemo in Comicsland

At the beginning of the last century, a little boy named Nemo was haunted by recurring nightmares of a bizarre and unruly land where the conventions of everyday life were turned upside down. By day, the boy was firmly lodged in the respectable and decorous world of middle-class white America. His frumpy parents kept up appearances in a solidly genteel household, complete with a white picket fence on the outside and an African American maid toiling away in the kitchen. The family’s regular rounds included hosting cousins and in-laws, going to church on Sundays, and making the occasional jaunt to the department stores—which were just starting to emerge as palaces of consumption.